What winter offers the gardener

by Caroline Brown

What does the winter season offer the gardener? Little, it may first be thought. And yet this is not the truth. First, there is during the closed months time to meditate upon our mistakes and failures (which have doubtless been many) and to seek some ways to remedy them…And then there is remembering: remembering the bold scarlet of the Poppies in June, the towering spires of the Delphiniums….And forgetting! Forgetting is perhaps as important as remembering. If we are to start the new season with vigor and enthusiasm, we must forget the backaches, the loathsome prevalence of slugs and other pests, the superiority of our neighbor’s Sweet Peas and Asters, and certain humiliations suffered from the behavior of various sniffy alpines that turned up their small toes and died in the face of our most earnest ministrations.

–L.B. Wilder, The Garden in Color (1937)

Don’t you just love that quote? It captures my excitement and enthusiasm perfectly–even though the temperature outside is 13 degrees and dropping. Heck, I’m temporarily in an apartment where I have no hope of my own garden this summer. But I’m on a couple of waiting lists for a community garden plot, so life is still good! As L.B. Wilder so eloquently recommends, I’m using these “closed months” to reflect, remember, forget, and learn.

And dream. Since I may not my own garden to play in this spring and summer, I’m not overloaded with catalogs but I’m enjoying “wish-booking” just the same. McClure & Zimmerman’s very fine selection of exotic spring and summer-planted bulbs, corms, & tubers is enthralling; and I can’t say enough about the variety of the selection of “ornamental and useful plants from around the world” offered by Forest Farm (in whose inch-thick catalog I found the L.B. Wilder quote). I’m also perusing the ubiquitous White Flower Farm and Wayside Gardens catalogs for ideas about color, unusual perennials, and exotic-looking hybrids.

Nature lover Henry Thoreau said, “Winter is the time for study, and the colder it is, the more studious we are.” I’m studying (or trying to in my spare time!) Bill Cullina and the New England Wild Flower Society’s books Native Trees, Shrubs and Vines and Wildflowers. And from Rick Darke’s beautiful book of photography and woodland garden and plant wisdom, The American Woodland Garden: Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest, I’m learning about a “forest aesthetic” and how to mimic it in the home garden.

Happy New Year then, and happy winter! Are you doing or reading anything interesting during the “closed months” to prepare for spring and summer?

6 Comments to “What winter offers the gardener”

  1. Wow, you sure do have a great knowledge on gardening!
    Now I know where to check it out!
    By the way, I would like to invite you my site : http://mypollyourvote.wordpress.com

  2. Winter is a good time to regroup and to plan for the spring and summer outdoor activities ahead. These look like interesting reads, love the mauve covers too!!! Happy dreaming of a green garden…it won’t be too long. G

  3. Does anybody know about this site ( http://www.earthlab.com ) ? I have seen other environmental sites with carbon calculators like yahoo and tree huggers, but I am wondering what the deal with earthlab.com is, is it credible? I saw they also published a list last month of the top ten greenest cities ( http://www.efficientenergy.org/Top-Ten-Green-Cities-in-the-United-States ). Does anyone know if this site is better than say WWF site? Fill me in

    I took their carbon foot print test and it was pretty interesting, but they said that I put out 4.5 tons of carbon while another test gave me like 15 tons? I think I trust earthlab.com’s test a little more (because my score is lower). Does anyone know about any other tests?

  4. Hi Adrian, I wasn’t familiar with Earthlab until I read your comment but they certainly seem credible and I didn’t read anything that sent up any red flags. My sense of carbon footprint calculators is that everyone measures differently, so not sure how valuable the measurement is unless they’re all using standard procedures. I guess for me personally I would go with an organization that I knew about. Al Gore’s group has one has one:
    So does Nature Conservancy:
    Though I never heard of them, Carbonfootprint.com has one:
    And just for kicks, BP (yep, the oil company) has one:
    Wonder how they score themselves, LOL.

  5. I love the quotes in this post, especially the Wilder one. Most winters, I am immersed in gardening books. This winter, I have only looked at a few. Maybe it is because I am running out of gardening space. That doesn’t stop me from dreaming though.

    Happy New Year!

  6. Yeh lots of gardeners take winter off and assume they can’t do anything! nonesense, what about raised beds, pots, cover crops, composting or even planting a bunch of bulbs for an early spring bloom. Winter is big preparation time for a real gardener.

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